9th October, 2013
Prior to his appointment as Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Kelfala Marah was the President’s Chief of Staff at State House. He is widely seen as the generalissimo and the go-getter of President Koroma’s administration. He wears a boyish look, with a zest for quick results. He resumes work between 6am and 7 am on week-days and has worked with the Commonwealth and other international organisations, with outstanding results. He spoke to ABUBAKAR HASHIM on topical issues in financial sector. Excerpts:
Sierra Leone has recorded an amazing economic growth rate, perhaps the highest in the West African region. What are the reasons behind this success?
The success in economic growth is due largely to a game changer in the economy, particularly the Iron-Ore mining sub-sector. There has been an increased growth rate from 6 per cent to 13 per cent due largely to the iron-ore mining activities. We are ahead of other nations in West Africa and the World Bank has classified us to be the hottest economy in the region.
The above scenario is achievable by smart management of the economy by the present government, in the form of prudent fiscal management initiatives and the management of a treasury single account by the government.
There is economic stability and an investment-friendly atmostphere, resulting in massive productive mining activities in the country. How did it happen?
This was achievable through the power of conviction, which hinges on the philosophy of the President. He has been a private-sector individual, an insurance guru. We are witnessing today a private-sector-led growth. Today, there is boom in the private sector investment in the country. There is also ease in doing business and tax processing has been made simple. This has led to very successful public-private-partnership drive in the economy.
We are getting reports that Sierra Leone will commence oil production in 2017. Could you comment on this report?
This is an enthusiastic speculation. We hope that data emanating from the tests done will help us achieve those levels. We are, however, very hopeful.
Coming out of war over a decade ago, how will you assess the Sierra Leone economy?
Satisfactory. But we still have a long way to go. We still have to harness the productive sectors of the economy. Our natural resources will need to be up-graded, to add value before export. We also need to diversify our economic base, and put the private sector in the driving seat of growth. These requisite factors are needed to enhance export and boost our collective resolve toward economic development.
What is the economic relationship between Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and by extension, the West African region?
Under ECOWAS, Sierra Leone enjoys wonderful economic and political relationship with our neighbors. Our relationship is poised to flatten trade barriers and bottlenecks, to enhance positive growth rates among our sister countries. We will launch, by 2015, the ECO unified currency, whereby we shall be using a single medium of exchange to transact our businesses in the region. We also provide security assistance to each other when the need arises. Nigeria has always been on the lead. Indeed, there has been a cordial relationship among the ECOWAS countries.